Monday, October 12, 2009

Really Bad science

I read a report on my digital news today about what's going to happen in 2012. Seems a Mayan Calendar somewhere south of here has predicted (Maybe. The evidence is ambiguous) that the world is going to end in 2012.
I have no intention of arguing with the notion that there is a prediction. Let's, for purposes of discussion, agree that there is a Mayan codex that states, "The world will end in 2012." Somehow that doesn't give me the shivers. That's because we always have the disparity between what a document says and the reality of the situation. S.I. Hayakawa was fond of saying, "The map is not the territory." A Mayan codex can say anything it wants to. Whether it's true or not is another thing entirely.
I've been thinking of this because I am currently listening to a book on CD that is partially set in an ancient Tibetan Monastery, where the monks meditate and have discovered the secrets of the universe.
May I laugh politely up my sleeve? The secret to the universe is that there is no secret to the universe. At least, none that you can find by thinking about it, Plato to the contrary. Here's what I think happens in cases like this: Everybody thinks that there is a secret to the universe, which, if found, gives unimaginable power. They don't have it, but are convinced that somebody does, maybe the monk in the next cell who seems to know a secret.
I can't claim to have thought this up -- it's the subject of Umberto Eco's wonderful book Foucault's Pendulum, which is, among other things, the finest history of mystic thought I've ever read.
Trust me: The world will not end in 2012. Keep paying those credit card bills.

1 comment:

Jacqui Binford-Bell said...

Usually what happens when we reach a "the world is going to end" point is someone comes out with the fact that the calculations were wrong and comes up with another panic date in the future.

The interesting issue for the 2012 doomsayers is for the Mayans the world, as they knew it, has ended. And if we are correct in translating the Mayan calendar to our current calendar they were wrong.

But I have some very intelligent friends that seem to believe in this 2012 thing. I pointed out to one recently that my 5 year planning calendar ends next year so maybe they out to get ready early. Whatever one does to prepare for the end of the world.

All that aside I really like Umberto Eco though I think I liked The Name of the Rose better than Foucault's Pendulum.